BrainBank is almost ready for beta

Wow, things have taken much longer than I expected at almost every stage of developing & launching BrainBank. But I see the light at the end of the tunnel now. Beta invitations will be going out in a week or two but I want to share a few insights I’ve had in developing BrainBank so far:

* Things take time.
* Break features down to smaller parts
* You need real customers to give you clarity. I have had myself as the customers POV but when you’re looking at it for for 2 or 3 months, it’s harder to keep perspective.
* The Rails community is awesome! Especially Radar, Mikeg1a and the countless others who have helped me in the #rubyonrails chat room.

Also, now that the general coding part is done, I need to take a short break. I feel exhausted. I’m excited but don’t have the energy to push this to market yet. I’m going to use the next couple weeks to get the marketing stuff updated (emails, PDF brochures, website, phone call scripts/guides) and get prepared for the new year. After the new year, I’m going to start going after potential customers and see how bad the economy really is. A few other SaaS software markers have said the down-turn hasn’t really affected them much. Let’s see how it all rolls.


Any Tips for a Sales Website for SaaS Product?

I’ve got BrainBank almost ready to show to the world (private beta) and I’m working on the sales website for it. For people with experience selling/marketing business software, any tips?

Rails Rumble 2008 Apps

UPDATE: Voting Is Now Open! Click here >

I was going to be competing in the Rails Rumble 2008 competition but I just didn’t have time.

Anyway, below are apps from the rumble that I’ve come across (in no particular order). Btw, official voting will probably open Tuesday but leave comments here on which ones you like and why. It would be cool to get a good discussion going and use it as a learning experience.


  1. Food Ferret
  2. Pic My Diet
  3. Live Resto
  4. Foodistic
  5. Pranziamo
  6. Nutty Swede
  7. Want Nom
Projects, Tasks, Lists & To-Dos
  1. CouldYa
  2. My Idea Drawer
  3. GTD
  4. Just a F***in List
  5. Chores
  6. Laddernator
  7. Agile Tasks
  8. Bid Build Bill
  9. My Kids Party
  10. The Sandy Pickle
Entertainment / Leisure / Social
  1. Riverdex
  2. Hiked It
  3. Venture Capitalist
  4. Locatr – (use Safari)
  5. Comicly
  6. Ideas Ftw
  7. Assassin
  8. Pict Meme
  9. Finger
  10. uBetcha
  11. Azimuth
  12. Inspires Me
  14. Beercamp
  15. i heart games
  17. Flockup
  18. Sticky Board
  19. Quick Beam
  20. Love Loathe
  21. Pickup Game Loader
  22. Utopianistic
  23. Ur Safety Net
  24. Fish Rumble
  25. Tagueame
  26. Latte Art
  27. Twalala
Music / Video / Movies
  1. Remindr
  2. Sell Your Attention
  3. Mood Bird
  4. Forever Home
  5. Sound Folder
  6. Ostraka
  7. Rails66
  8. Giwiki
  9. Wurbe
  10. Prickt
  1. Story Seed
  2. Cite Now
  3. Track Class
  4. Reveal The Bias
  5. Likis
  6. Share Your Stuff
  7. Quotagious
  8. Petticoat (Live Twitter & YouTube Search)


  1. Run 1 Mile
  2. Sheep Fit
  3. Run. Track. Run.
Web / Programming

Beta Request

I was asking iHate (codename of programmer from substruct) some questions about Ruby on Rails a few days ago and he commented to me that it looked very unprofessional that had a server error.

This didn’t initially bother me for two reasons:

  • The traffic on the website is minimal.
  • The server error wasn’t a bug. It was just something that hadn’t been coded in yet and it won’t be a top priority until BrainBank is ready for alpha/beta users.

However, as I thought about it more, I realized I was potentially missing a marketing opportunty so I fixed it. Now there is a Beta Request page which is connected with my PipelineDeals account

Feel free to sign up and I’ll send you an email once beta accounts are available.

I think part of the reason I didn’t do this earlier was because I didn’t know how… and I didn’t want to spend the time doing it. For people who use Ruby on Rails, here’s how I did it:

#inside app/controllers/application.rb before_filter :sales_site_check private# real_account? just checks if an account exists for the domain used in the request.
# if it doesn’t, it will just render views/sales/index.html.erb

def sales_site_check
   render :template => ‘sales/index’, :layout => false unless real_account? 

It’s not really sophisticated and it won’t be usable once I’m ready to launch but it’s enough for now.

Mistakes: The Price Of Progress

For the last month, I’ve been in a state of “paralysis by analysis.” And today, I’ve had a remarkable realization: I am going to make mistakes. Obvious? Yes. Obvious to me? Nop.

See for the last month or so, I’ve been digging into training material of all sorts. Numerous screencasts, articles, videos, etc.  I think what I was looking for was something that be a step by step guide to build a superb web application.  Particularly interesting is that I didn’t tell myself this. I told myself I wanted to make my app very RESTful and DRY and a bunch of other bull shit. I wanted to follow all these ideals and best practices of web development. But if I keep on “learning” instead of getting down to “doing” aka coding, BrainBank will remain a pipe-dream project.

So I publicly accknowledge that I will screw up in BrainBank (aka I’ll pull a Twitter). BrainBank won’t be the finest lines of code that have ever been typed. It will probably contain many unRESTful things. It probably won’t be poetry-ish when read by other developers. And I accept that I will fix it… or I’ll hire someone to fix them once BrainBank starts making money.

Mistake is the price of progress. Make more. Make em fast. Move on.

Ever had paralysis by analysis? Leave a comment 😀

Other stuff that I was going to include but seemed irrelevant/uninteresting
My original goal of launching a new SaaS product in 48 hrs has come and gone. In some ways, it was a success.

I rocketed forward, created a web app and got it LIVE in less than 48 hrs… but it was hardly a real business. Infact, in the spirit of boosting forward at jet speed, I ended up building something that was different than my original vision. That was mistake 1.

Mistake 2 was getting others excited about the product (or at least the original vision of the product) before I had something real… before even I had used it. Basically, I wasted some of that excitement. It’s rude to go sell someone a product (or the concept of a product) and tell them I’ll call ya as soon as it’s ready. You get them all excited just to let them down.

Post-launch, as I sat there looking at my creation, it was obvious that it didn’t fit the bill of my original vision in many ways. So I decided to start fresh. This is when the paralysis start.

PS: the original version is down. I’m using the server for development at this time.

FYI: Busy with tests, reports & lab write-ups

Just wanted to leave a quick note that I’ve been busy for the last few weeks with tests, reports & lab write ups. This is why the official 1.0 version has not been released. Summer classes are fairly fast paced. I love it, except I’ve had to give some things up… and BrainBank has been one of those things. I should have things under control after tonight so v1.0 will go live Friday.

Software as a Service (SaaS) Products/Companies

During the process of building out my first software as a service product (Brain Bank), I’ve looked at a large number of other companies that offer their software as a service.

It took me a while to find & bookmark these companies so I figured I’d share them… organized by categories they are closest to. This is not a comprehensive list. It isn’t meant to be a directory.

It’s more to give people perspective on what is out there, how people are pricing their apps, how they software looks & feels, etc. Some are examples to follow. Others are examples of what not to do.

PS: If I’m missing someone you need needs to be on this list, please leave a comment and I’ll update the list.

PS2: Some don’t completely fit into their category because it was probably narrowly focused or fit into multiple categories. I made the call on where to put it. Deal with it. 😀

PS3: Expect another blog post later today with a status update on BrainBank later today.


Projects / Plans / Collaboration

Groups / Social Networks

CRM / Contact Manager / Sales Pipeline / Proposals

Backup / Doc Sharing




Learning Management Systems


Forms / Application Development

Appointment Setting

Web Site Creation / Ecommerce


Time tracking


Bug tracking

Customer Feedback / Survey

Comments Anti-Spam


Narrow Focus

44.25 Hours & Counting

For newbies to this blog, here’s some quick background info: Three weeks back, I decided to do an experiment. I wanted to see if I could launch a SaaS product in 48 hours (12 days x 4 hrs.) I had 3 different ideas for products I could build and decided to run with “Chemistry in Bite-Size Chunks delivered via Email or RSS” app.

View the latest version at

Over the last few weeks, I’ve put 44.25 hrs (yes, I’ve tracked) into my “48 Hour Launch” experiment. Where do I stand? Will I make the 48 hr deadline? Am I a multi-millionaire yet?

Okay, you probably don’t care about the last one as much as I do but here are answers: i) much further than I thought, ii) possibly iii) nope, not there yet.

Where do I stand?
I’ve given this baby a name. I call it Brain Bank. I love brains (specifically how they are capable of so much) and banks are a place where people storage their valuables, including money, jewelry, etc. I believe hard-earned wisdom & knowledge are a person’s/company’s most prized asset, Brain Bank seem appropriate.

After 44.25 hrs of coding, the application is quiet complete for ‘1.0’ version. Following in the footsteps of ‘half, not half-assed‘, Brain Bank is a simple software. Here is what you’ll be able to do at launch:

  • Browse through courses available ***
  • View information about a course ***
  • Register for an account ***
  • Enroll into a course (which will email you the next lesson every morning, until you’ve received the last lesson.) ****
  • Email automatically goes out every morning for people enrolled in courses ****
  • Un-enrolling from a course *
  • Create a course & add information about it ****
  • Add, edit & remove lessons into courses ****
  • Change the order of lessons ****
  • Add a cover for your course **
  • Edit your “About the author” biography section & showing this info on course page *

* Not started
** Started
*** Almost-done/Layout-design tweaks left
**** Done/Not gonna touch anymore

There are a lot of things that I wanted in version 1.0 that won’t make it in the first version including:

  • Paid accounts
  • Welcome email when someone enrolls into a course
  • Adding pictures into lessons
  • Adding video into lessons
  • AutoSave when creating lessons
  • RSS feeds for enrollments
  • Performance optimizations
  • Customized portal pages for authors
  • “Send Me a Preview Email” when authoring a lesson
  • Ajax interface
  • Single lesson courses
  • Option to “Turn Course into PDF” that automatically creates a classy ebook and makes it available to those enrolled in a course
  • Supplementary Files (for such as PowerPoint/Word/PDF/etc files)
  • Discussion forums

Planning went out the window
In my second post Day 1: Action Plan, I talked about some of my planning process. Five hours into the coding, pretty much all that planning went out the window. First lesson I learned was that multiple lists just don’t work, at least for me.

What did work for me was having one list, which I called 2-week dev plan. As I thought of things that needed to be done, I added it to the list. Tasks were sometimes detailed, such as “Change the width on the columns on the home page to fix the IE6 problem.” Other times they were general such as “Allow uploading of Cover graphic.” My to-do list served as reminder tool instead of a self-micro-management tool, which is how I think I was using it initially. It’s main purpose is to facilitate “flow” between completion of one thing to moving on to the next thing.

No paid plans? WTF!?
Version 1.0 of BrainBank will not have paid plans.

And for this reason, I can’t claim my experiment to a success as the idea was to launch a new company in 48 hours. And a company isn’t a real company if it doesn’t make money… it’s a non-profit.

The reason there will be no paid plans is because it will take time to code it as I’ve never done it before. I could just buy the SasS Kit but I’m not confident it will be money worth spent. Secondly, I’ll need to deal with the bank, set-up a corporation, etc etc. At this point, I feel it’s better to spend the limited time I’ve got in building something useful. But make no mistake about it, paid plans are a top priority and it will probably look something like the table below. This is just early brainstorming so don’t hold me to this:

Feature/Limits Premium
Published Courses Unlimited 5 1
Draft-status Courses Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Sell Courses
Month Active Students 1000 500 50
Disk Space (for images) 1 GB 500 MB 50 MB
Invite-Only /
Private Courses
for lessons

What do you think? I’m very open to ideas.


I haven’t been working on this project daily as I initially suspected but I’m making progress.

In my first post, Kalpesh Khivasara pointed me to They let you read books via RSS. And they’ve implemented things really well as far as I can see. And I had to deal with a big issue… what do you do when a competitor has already built something you’re starting to build? At first, I was ready to concede the problem to them. I had two other problems I could be solving. I slept on the decision and thought about the problem I wanted to solve and tried to get more specific with how I wanted to solve it.

The DailyLit approach is to sell/consume books via email & RSS and that is great. I hope more books do eventually become available on DailyLit. It would help more people start using RSS.

My approach is to let people create/consume courses via email & RSS. The difference is that I will allow normal experts to put together courses very quickly and these courses content would not be found in books. The implication of this is that my revenue strategy is very different than DailyLit. My main revenue source will be users who want to create content and either charge for their courses or want special features for their account such as private content. Here are users I’m creating the app for:

  • Companies how have their processes inside word documents, They could use this system as their LSM by creating private content for their employees only. If every task in a company is well documented, the company becomes more valuable to buyers as it won’t require the owners knowledge to make it run.
  • Consultants who want to create a passive income stream or passive lead generation method. They could use the system to sell/give-away useful courses to generate revenue/leads.
  • Students who want to share/sell what they learned in their courses so they can review their knowledge at a latter point in time and help others as well.

I personally fall in all three cases. And all three scenarios are not addressed by DailyLit and represents a focus that is different than DailyLit. With this in mind, I decided to continue on the same path.

My current progress can be seen at and I’ve posted some screenshots of how I see it looking in the near future. I hope to have a usable version by today or tomorrow.

Day 1: Action Plan

The problem I have decided to focus on is Bite-Size Chemistry Lesson in my RSS Reader because it’s the one that I will need to use almost daily for the next 3 to 5 years in my quest to becoming a medical doctor. It also has good commercial applications and was also most recommended in the feedback I’ve received on my blog, friends and business mentors.

Today is Wednesday, day 1 of my 12 day experiment.

Quiet a few successful people preach the “ready, fire, aim” approach… where you jump in asap to get a feel for unknowns quickly. I don’t work that way most of the time. I need to figure out what I’m going to before I do it… at least at a general level. So that is where I started today.

My plan of action

In my BaseCamp account, I created a new project called Mini Lessons, in which I created a few to-do lists:

  • Technical Ingredients for 1.0 – technical know-how that I need to learn such as how to send emails from inside a Ruby on Rails app
  • Learner Feature Set for 1.0 – limited to 2 features right now (subscribing via email or rss to a course)
  • System & Admin Feature Set for 1.0 – the underlying fundementals that need to be in place for a working site, such as subscription billing, user accounts, etc
  • Author Feature Set for 1.0 – Limited to 1 feature (WYSIWIG for entering text & pictures and embedding videos & slides.)
  • Decisions to make for 1.0 – such as App name, whether to pay for SaaS Rails Kit or write code myself, etc
  • Future Features for Authors – list of features I won’t be building right now (to keep myself disciplined and focused)
  • Future Features for Learners – same as above

A Confession…

After I realized that not knowing how to process CSV data files (similar to Excel file but with no formatting) was going to be a limiting factor in my decisions (this one and maybe future decisions), I got an undying itch to conquer this terrain. I spent about 3 hours doing that today and with the help of the awesome Ruby on Rails community, I was able to kick some CSV ass. I’m counting the 3 hrs as play-time and so it won’t count against my 48 hours. 😛